Coming Attractions: August 13 through 29 — What Will Light Your Fire

Arts Fuse critics supply a guide to film, dance, visual art, theater, author readings, and music. More offerings will be added as they come in.


Ryan Gosling’s Ken and Margo Robbie’s’s Barbie in Barbie.

Coolidge Corner Theatre, Kendall Square, and elsewhere

Director Greta Gerwig has created a surreal pink pop universe where Margo Robbie’s Barbie goes up against Ryan Gosling’s Ken (one of many so named) to thwart attempts to take over Barbie World. This audacious surreal fantasy is more than the sum of its dazzlingly plastic parts. Whimsical and cartoonish, the narrative serves up a forthright polemic on battling the patriarchy. The film has generated more publicity than any in recent memory, producing a slew of kitsch fashions and thought pieces on the significance of a doll that still sells an estimated 164 units every minute. (Arts Fuse review)

Coolidge Corner Theatre, Somerville Theatre, Kendall Square, and elsewhere

The summer’s second blockbuster is a masterfully crafted film structured in three acts over three hours as it flashes between present, past, and future. The storyline covers Oppenheimer’s university days and early relationships, the building of the Los Alamos project, and the battle to save his reputation following the bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. The film triumphs on every level — screenplay, cinematography, acting, and directing. The nearly all-British cast contains some American exceptions. Robert Downey puts in one of his best performances as Congressman Lewis Strauss. Three performers come by way of Boston. Matt Damon is the buttoned-up and efficient General Leslie Groves. Casey Affleck plays the oily military intelligence officer Boris Pash. Boston University alumnus Bennie Safdie is in the role of Edward Teller, the brilliant and dispassionate theoretical physicist known as “the father of the hydrogen bomb.” “Where’s Ben” signs have been seen at several screenings. The stunning score by Ludwig Göransson carries the story forward via waves of suspense and emotion. This film has Academy awards written all over it. (Fuse Review)

Beats, Rhymes & Life: The Travels of A Tribe Called Quest
August 15 at 7 p.m.
Coolidge Corner Theatre, Brookline

Michael Rapaport’s highly praised film on the landmark musical group is part of the “Hip Hop at 50 Series” at the Coolidge Corner Theatre, a collaboration with the film subscription site  Mubi.

A scene from Have You Got It Yet? The Story of Syd Barrett and Pink Floyd. Photo: Mercury Films

Have You Got It Yet? The Story of Syd Barrett and Pink Floyd
August 28 at 7:30 p.m., 29 at 2 and 7:30 p.m, and 30 at 2 and 5 p.m.
Regent Theatre in Arlington

Syd Barrett, the founding member of Pink Floyd, led a life full of unanswered questions. This documentary set against the social context of the ’60s, looks around for answers. It pieces together the puzzle of his career, from his quick rise to stardom, which was fed by creative and destructive impulses, to the final breakdown and his drift into isolation.

Man With a Movie Camera
August 22 at 7:30 p.m.
Somerville Theatre

Russian documentarian Dziga Vertov’s silent avant-garde classic from 1929 employed every trick of filmmaking in its pursuit of a pure cinematic language, one in which society, man, and machine were balanced in an equal partnership. This remarkable film works best with a powerful musical score, and chances are the Anvil Orchestra, with Terry Donahue and Roger Miller, will be up to the challenge.

Sinéad OʼConnor in a scene from Nothing Compares.

Pick of the Week

Nothing Compares
Available on Showtime, Paramont plus, Apple TV

From the moment she walked off the Saturday Night Live set after her protest against child abuse by the Catholic Church, Sinead O’Connor knew her career was in danger. She didn’t care. She was more concerned with being a political activist and feminist than she was with continuing as an international music star. She shaved her head so she would not be viewed as conventionally glamorous. She had changed her name to Shuhada Sadaqat and converted to Islam, explaining that it was  “the natural conclusion of any intelligent theologian’s journey.” When she died last week at 56 in London, the world mourned the passing of a rare and committed artist. She insists at one point in this timely biography of her life: “There was no therapy when I was growing up, so that’s the reason I got into music. It was therapy. This is why it was such a shock to become a pop star. It was not what I wanted. I just wanted to scream.” Arts Fuse review

— Tim Jackson

Classical Music

Pianist Jean-Yves Thibaudet will be performing at Tanglewood on August 18. Photo: courtesy of the artist

Thibaudet plays Saint-Saëns and Gershwin
Presented by Tanglewood Music Center
August 18, 8 p.m.
Koussevitzky Shed, Lenox

Pianist Jean-Yves Thibaudet does double-duty as soloist in two-thirds of this evening’s program: he takes the spotlight in Camille Saint-Saëns’s Piano Concerto No. 5 and Gershwin’s Piano Concerto in F. Also on the docket are Carlos Simon’s Four Black American Dances.

Beethoven to Gottschalk
Presented by Landmarks Orchestra
August 23, 7 p.m.
Hatch Shell, Boston

Landmarks Orchestra wraps its summer season with a festive, dance-themed finale involving music by Berlioz, Beethoven, Tchaikovsky, David Kempers, Kareem Roustom, and Hershy Kay.

— Jonathan Blumhofer

Roots and World Music

Con Funk Shun will be serving up R&B hits of the ’70s and ’80s at Elma Lewis Playhouse this week. Photo: courtesy of the artist

Con Funk Shun
August 15, 6 p.m.
Elma Lewis Playhouse, Franklin Park

This is quite the week of funk in Boston. First up are Con Funk Shun, an outfit that had a long string of R&B hits in the ’70s and ’80s. Key members Felton Pilate, Michael Cooper, and Karl Fuller revived the band a few years ago and unlike many of their old-school circuit peers, they still carry a full horn section. They wrap up this year’s series of free shows in Boston’s Franklin Park.

August 16
Club Passim, Cambridge

A valuable chance to hear Carnatic, the stringed instrument music of South India, in the intimate trappings of Passim. This trio features the lute-like chitravina, violin, and the mrdangam, a two-headed drum.

Legendary funkmeiser George Clinton joins up with Fishbone in the MGM Music Hall at Fenway. Photo: courtesy of the artist

Parliament Funkadelic featuring George Clinton with Fishbone
August 17
MGM Music Hall at Fenway

It would be hard to get any funkier than this double bill. George Clinton, 82, first claimed he was retiring in 2018. His final appearances have become so much of an annual tradition that this outing is simply being called “Final Tour!?!” The opening act is one of very few bands that have come close to P-Funk’s influence: the pivotal Black rock/ska/funk outfit Fishbone, who by all reports were incendiary when they played the Brighton Music Hall earlier this year.

Ernie Smith with Soulshot
August 17 at 5:30 p.m. at the Cisco Brewery, New Bedford
August 22 at 6 p.m., Watch Hill Sunset Concerts on the Green, Watch Hill, RI

Past Arts Fuse interview subject Ernie Smith, a legendary reggae storyteller with a heavy country influence, is back for a run of shows with Rhode Island’s great Soulshot band. The full musical contingent will be performing in both New Bedford and Watch Hill. Smith is also doing a pair of special acoustic shows on August 18 at the Parlour in Providence and August 19 at Down Island Pub on Block Island. Full details are on the Soulshot website.

Dave Alvin & Jimmie Dale Gilmore with the Guilty Ones plus Dead Rock West
August 25 at City Winery

It’s impossible to overstate the influence that both Alvin and Gilmore have had on Americana music. Neither has played Boston since the onset of Covid. They’ll be backed by Alvin’s crack band Guilty Ones for a night of what he calls “both kinds of folk music: quiet and loud.” This tour also plays the Narrows in Fall River on August 26 and the Academy of Music in Northampton on August 27.

Claudia Linnear will be paying tribute to her old boss Tina Turner at Chan’s. Photo: courtesy of the artist

Claudia Linnear
August 25
Chan’s, Woonsocket, RI

A few years ago Linnear, a former Ikette who became a queen of rock background singing when she joined Joe Cocker’s Mad Dogs and Englishmen tour, was rightfully inducted into the Rhode Island Music Hall of Fame. Now based on the West Coast, she returns for a tribute to her old boss Tina Turner, accompanied by Duke Robillard’s trio.

Himalayan Highway
August 28
Club Passim, Cambridge

Nepali master Shyam Nepali is one of the true treasures of the Boston music scene. Occasionally he collaborates with American bluegrass and string band musicians — the results are inevitably magical. For this project he’s joined by Nepali tabla player Pramod Upadhyaya, mandolinist Zoe Levitt (mandolin), and guitarist Alex Formento.

— Noah Schaffer


Fogo no Trio
August 17, 8 p.m.
The Lilypad, Cambridge

Fogo no Trio is an instrumental Brazilian trio featuring original music influenced by Brazilian choro and samba. The trio brings together several award-winning musicians: US violinist Andrew Finn Magill, Brazilian mandolinist Ian Coury (currently a student at Berklee, as well), and Brazilian 7-string guitarist Cesar Garabini.

— Evelyn Rosenthal

Music Festival

Liz Stokes of the Beths at Newport Folk 2023. Photo: Paul Robicheau

In Between Days
Aug. 19-20, noon to 9:45 p.m.
Veterans Memorial Stadium, Quincy

Want a more modest festival that’s close to town and not so crowded, expensive, or far away? The In Between Days festival (taking its name from a great song by the Cure) offers an enticing mid-range sampler of national and local music as it jumps from one to two days in its second year at Quincy’s Veteran Memorial Stadium. Brash 90s-launched rockers Modest Mouse headline a Saturday lineup that juggles pop, folk, and rock with the Beths (the New Zealand band coming off a splash at Newport Folk), Sunny Day Real Estate, and Blitzen Trapper, as well as such local favorites as Weakened Friends, Carissa Johnson, and Paper Tigers. Sunday floats an even more diverse spread ahead of Lord Huron, which will close the night with its cinematic western indie-pop. That day includes electro-pop duo Phantagram, bluegrass-influenced rockers Tramped by Turtles, country upstart Miko Marks, and indie-R&B-jazz curio Cautious Clay, along with locals that include Mint Green and Dwight & Nicole. All in a chill, spacious setting to rock.

Beach Road Weekend on Martha’s Vineyard
Aug. 25-27, noon to 8 p.m.
Vineyard Haven, Martha’s Vineyard

If you were Bon Iver, Mumford & Sons, and Leon Bridges, each playing only a few select US shows this summer, wouldn’t you choose an idyllic spot with nearby beaches? That’s what those novel headliners are doing at Beach Road Weekend on Martha’s Vineyard. And that ambitious music festival — in a park nested in downtown Vineyard Haven only two blocks from a ferry stop — doesn’t stop there. You won’t find legendary poet/rocker Patti Smith and her band, guitar firebrand Gary Clark Jr., or idiosyncratic singer/pianist Regina Spektor making any other local appearances. Plus, there’s Caamp, Dispatch, Mary Chapin Carpenter, the Head and the Heart, Dispatch, St. Paul & the Broken Bones, Dinosaur Jr., and Japanese Breakfast, among others. True, it’s nearly impossible to find summer lodging on the Vineyard proper, but you could also make it a day trip to the island or opt for some lodging around the Cape

— Paul Robicheau


COVID PROTOCOLS: Check with specific theaters.

Revolution’s Edge by Patrick Gabridge. Directed by Alexandra Smith. Staged in partnership with Plays in Place at the Old North Church & Historic Site, 193 Salem Street, Boston, through September 19.

“For the first time in Old North Church’s 300-year history, the historic site will host an original play.” The drama is “set in Boston’s oldest surviving church on April 18, 1775, the day before the Battle of Lexington & Concord and mere hours before the famous ‘two if by sea’ lantern signals. The story centers on the interaction between three fathers, who share a faith but are politically divided, as Boston sits on the brink of war, searching for information and answers as to the best path forward for both their families and the colonies.”

Top of the world, Ma! Three floors with a helluva view. Photo: View Boston

View Boston, an observatory encompassing the top three floors of the Prudential Tower, Boston, just opened.

This permanent attraction certainly classifies as a spectacular theatrical experience. I was up there, and can testify to the gob-smacking views of the city from just about all angles. The lit-up diorama of Boston is also impressive, as is a swooping film tour of the city. What’s more, the computer wizardry — you can select your own itinerary (from possibilities projected on large screens) and email it to yourself or others — will spur discoveries. This is a first-of-its kind tourist setup, and it is well done, including a snug restaurant and bar. My major reservations: tickets are pricey (this is tailored for upscale families), the computer machinations will no doubt glitch, and it would be nice to see more art by local artists on display.

Fences by August Wilson. Directed by Christopher V. Edwards. Staged by Shakespeare & Company at the Tina Packer Playhouse, Lenox, through August 27.

One of August Wilson’s most produced plays. Set in the ’50s, the Arthur Miller-ish script is “the story of Troy Maxson — a working-class Black man struggling to provide for his family. His past includes the low of a prison sentence and the high of a promising career with the Negro Baseball League, but it’s Troy’s unrealized dream to play for Major League Baseball that fills his days with resentment and regret.” In 1987, the play won both the Pulitzer Prize for Drama and the Tony Award for Best Play.

Morgan Bassichis’s Don’t Rain On My Bat Mitzvah, co-created with Ira Khonen Temple, featuring Emma Alabaster, Zoë Aqua, April Centrone, and Pam Fleming. Performed live in Astor Place, July 4, 2021. Photo by Matteo Prandoni/

Morgan Bassichis: More Little Ditties at the Carpenter Center for the Visual Arts, Level 3, Sert Gallery, Harvard University, 24 Quincy Street, Cambridge, through September 3.

“The artist brings together performance, video, and text-based works — created both before and during the COVID-19 pandemic — that mark time, loss, desire, disappointment, and joy through playful musical gestures. The exhibition is co-organized with the Institute of Contemporary Art at Virginia Commonwealth University, where it will be on view September 8 to January 7, 2024.

“Through deceptively simple and incantatory ‘little ditties,’ Bassichis approaches urgent questions with critical curiosity, poetry and — crucially — pleasure. Performing solo as well as working collaboratively in duets and groups, Bassichis’s practice offers intimate encounters with learning, collectivity, and lineages of queer and Jewish radicalism. As noted by the artist, these ‘songs fall somewhere between adult lullabies and practical spells, and will not include concrete policy recommendations but maybe they should?'”

On Cedar Street, Book by Emily Mann. Music by Lucy Simon & Carmel Dean. Lyrics by Susan Birkenhead. Adapted from the novel Our Souls at Night by Kent Haruf. Directed by direction by Susan H. Schulman. Staged by the Berkshire Theatre Group on The Larry Vaber Stage, at The Unicorn Theatre, 6 East Street, Stockbridge, through September 2.

“This World Premiere musical tells the joyful and inspiring story of a man and a woman who, in advanced age, come together in a search for happiness and family.

“In the small town of Holt, Colorado, Addie Moore pays an unexpected visit to a neighbor, Louis Waters. Her husband died years ago, as did his wife, and in such a small town they naturally have known of each other for decades. Addie and Louis have long been living alone in empty houses, the nights so terribly lonely, especially with no one to talk with. But maybe that could change? When Addie tries to make a connection with her neighbor, the two begin sleeping in bed together platonically, with the innocent goal of alleviating their shared loneliness. As their relationship deepens, however, they each deal with grief and loss, and a real romance begins to blossom and a beautiful story of second chances unfolds.”

Hamlet by William Shakespeare. Directed by Danielle Fauteux Jacques. Staged by the Apollinaire Theatre Company at Chelsea Square (audience members will meet outside the Chelsea Theatre Works), 189 Winnisimmet Street, Chelsea, MA, through August 19. “A FREE, on-your-feet, bilingual performance event!” Pre-show begins at 6:30; Hamlet begins at 8 p.m.

Bring your running shoes — Hamlet is quick on his feet. An umbrella might be wise as well, just in case. Armando Rivera plays the Prince of Denmark in a streamlined 90-minute version of Shakespeare’s tragedy that hits the streets.

A Midsummer Night’s Dream at Shakespeare & Company: (l to r) Javier David, Madeleine Rose Maggio, Carlos Olmedo, and Naire Poole. Photo: Nile Scott Studios

A Midsummer Night’s Dream by William Shakespeare. Directed by Allyn Burrows. Staged by Shakespeare & Company at the New Spruce Theatre, 70 Kemble Street, Lenox, through September 10.

Another outing for one of the Bard’s most produced scripts: an impressive cast includes Nigel Gore, Elizabeth Aspenlieder, and Sheila Bandyopadhyay. “The play that Bottom and company put on raises the problem of the metaphysical distinction between existence and essence.” — W.H. Auden on A Midsummer Night’s Dream.

The Ding Dongs by Brenda Withers. Directed by Rebecca Bradshaw. Staged by Gloucester Stage at 267 East Main Street, Gloucester, through August 27.

“When sweet-faced strangers show up on a suburban doorstep, the tight-lipped homeowner finds their story suspicious: the house, they claim, was their childhood home and they’ve come in hopes of getting a quick peek. As they cheerily muscle their way across the threshold, it becomes clear the couple has no intention of leaving.” This “comedic thriller” by a Cape Cod dramatist sounds as if it has a touch — just a touch mind you — of the plot of Edward Albee’s A Delicate Balance.

Circle Mirror Transformation by Annie Baker. Directed by Daniel Elihu Kramer. Staged by the Chester Theatre Company at 15 Middlefield Road, Chester, MA, through August 20.

“Five very different people come together in a Vermont community center for an amateur acting class. They are there to learn about performing, but their games and exercises teach them more about themselves and each other than they do about theatre.” The cast includes Tara Franklin and Corinna May.

The Thin Place by Lucas Hnath. Directed by Jeff Zinn. Staged by Harbor Stage at 15 Kendrick Avenue, Wellfleet, through September 3.

“If you could speak to the dead, what would you say? What would you want them to say to you? In this hypnotic mystery, a disarming psychic leads a grieving client through a journey marked by conjuring, connection, and hope. An intimate drama about trust, truth, and how we treat each other — in this world and the next.​” The cast includes D’Arcy Dersham, Stacy Fischer, Robert Kropf, and Brenda Withers.

— Bill Marx

Visual Arts

Hazoumè, Romuald, 2013. Plastic can, synthetic hair, and copper wire. Photo: courtesy of the Mount Holyoke College Art Museum

Rather unexpectedly, the historically insular and resistant-to-change museum world has lately been all about embracing social engagement and “woke” culture, or at least an art world variant of it. Case in point: the Mount Holyoke College Art Museum has been closed all summer for reinstallation of its collections and will reopen August 29 with a deep rethink of how the museum displays and interprets art objects to “raise the voices of marginalized communities and unseat traditional Eurocentric and colonialist perspectives that have dominated museum practices for centuries.” Though this last point is a stretch — no American and few European art museums have been around for “centuries,” and standardized ideas for how to exhibit art in them didn’t really begin until academic art history got underway in the early 20th century. The Mt. Holyoke relaunch is part of a larger trend recently taking place at campus museums at Smith, Dartmouth, Colby, Williams, and Boston College.

At Mt. Holyoke, plans include Relaunch Laboratory, a working space designed to exhibit a range of art and explore new ideas and juxtapositions while seeking visitor feedback, and A New Installation: Art of the 20th and 21st Centuries Reimagined, the first stage in reimagining the museum’s galleries leading up to its 150th anniversary in 2026.

Also opening August 29 at Mt. Holyoke is I Will Spatter the Sky Utterly: Romuald Hazoume. Hazoume, native of the West African kingdom of Benin, creates masks and sculptures from plastic gasoline containers and other industrial trash. His works are intended to reveal the lives of Beninese men and women “forced to navigate porous borders between Benin and neighboring Nigeria as part of the illicit fuel trade…” The Mt. Holyoke exhibition consists of a single work, Kawessi (2013), surrounded by contextual material relating to an environmental crisis. Benin has been in the news lately as some major European art museums have returned important Beninese art works British soldiers confiscated from the kingdom in the 19th century.

As part of its own Big Rethink, the Williams College Museum of Art continues its “Construct Your Own Meaning” summer series with Remixing the Hall: Cake Artists. Cake artists from the region will create a cake that interprets an art work in the institution’s permanent collection. Starting at 5 p.m. on August 17, the cake artists will talk about the process in a moderated conversation. From 6 to 7 p.m. there will be a reception to — you guessed it — eat the cakes. (Readers here may supply their own references to Marie Antoinette.)

On August 24, Boston’s Institute of Contemporary Art opens Tammy Nguyen, the Connecticut-based artist’s first solo museum exhibition in the United States. Nguyen’s  environmentally oriented work finds deep sources in East Asian landscape painting and Ralph Waldo Emerson’s classic essay, Nature. Nguyen’s gilded paintings combine historic and political imagery with lush backgrounds, teeming with vegetation, insects, and animals.

Gio Swaby, New Growth Second Chapter 3, 2021. Thread and fabric sewn on canvas.  © Gio Swaby.

Bahamian-born artist Gio Swaby grew up surrounded by the fabrics and materials her seamstress mother used in her work. Swaby’s portraits, featured in the exhibition Gio Swaby: Fresh Up, which opened at the Peabody Essex Museum on August 12, are based in the context of textiles, often associated with domesticity, enlarged to a grand scale, often at life size. In the Bahamas, “fresh up” is often used to compliment someone’s style or confident affect. Swaby typically portrays close friends and uses a process that spotlights their most relaxed and self-aware moments. She says: “These pieces celebrate personal style, resilience, strength, beauty, individuality, and imperfections.”

The chemical processes used to create the 35 mm nitrate film that founded the film industry are also used to create explosives: nitrate film is notoriously fragile, volatile, and flammable. Experimental filmmaker Bill Morrison looks for nitrate film in archives and uses it — transferred to video — to create works that hover between documentary and preservation. The Colby Museum of Art opens an exhibition of Morrison’s work, Bill Morrison: Cycles and Loops, at its Paul J. Schupf Art Center in downtown Waterville on August 18.

The Museum of Fine Arts “Banner Project” is a ongoing series of commissions from contemporary artists to create banners for display in the museum’s Linde Family Wing for Contemporary Art. For its latest installment, The Banner Project: Sheida Soleimani (which opens on August 20), the Providence-based artist has photographed her parents against an elaborate studio backdrop of props, images, and symbols. The figures appear with their backs to the camera, one fist raised, in poses and gestures that elude to the fact that her parents are political dissidents: Iranian refugees who fled Iran to escape persecution.

Established in 1999, the ICA Artist Prize was intended to recognize exceptional Boston-area artists with an award and an exhibition at the museum. Now endowed by James and Audrey Foster and named in their honor, the 2023 James and Audrey Foster Prize exhibition opens on August 24 and features the artists Cicely Carew, Venetia Dale, and Yu-Wen Wu.

— Peter Walsh


Drummer Billy Mintz in action. Photo: courtesy of the artist

Billy Mintz Quartet with Tony Malaby
Aug. 15, 7:30 p.m.
Lilypad, Cambridge

The saxophonist, composer, and educator Tony Malaby has been tireless in organizing gigs that draw his talented pals from New York to join Malaby’s Berklee colleagues. Here he brings up the esteemed veteran drummer Billy Mintz and a quartet that includes Malaby (all heard to good effect on the 2017 release Ugly Beautiful). The other members of the band are the fine pianist Roberta Picket (also not heard often enough in Boston) and bassist Don Falzone. Two sets.

Dave Bryant
August 17, 8 p.m.
Harvard-Epworth Church, Cambridge

For this edition of his monthly “Third Thursday” residency, keyboardist Dave Bryant is joined by Charlie Kohlhase, on alto and baritone sax, violinist Gabriel Solomon, guitarist Eric Hofbauer, bassist John Turner, and drummer Miki Matsuki.

David Chestnut Jazz Festival
August 19, 11:30 a.m. to 6 p.m.
Eustis Estate, Milton, MA

This daylong festival set on the lawn of the historic Eustis Estate features the guitarist Andrew Stern, the Afro-Latin groove-driven ensemble Astronomico, trumpeter Lemuel Marc’s quartet, the Continuum Dance Project, the Jerry Bergonzi Quartet, and the trio of pianist Zahili Gonzalez Zamora.

Saxophonist, singer, and songwriter Grace Kelly will perform in Rockport this week. Photo:

Grace Kelly with Strings
August 19, 5 p.m. and 8 p.m.
Shalin Liu Performance Center, Rockport, MA

Saxophonist, singer, and songwriter Grace Kelly reprises her string-ensemble project (inspired by Charlie Parker with Strings, and previously performed at the Berklee Performance Center). In “At the Movies: Grace Kelly with Strings,” she’s joined by a 15-piece ensemble “playing reimagined versions of her favorite movie music with songs from E.T.Mission Impossible, Pirates of the Caribbean, Back to the Future,” various scores from Disney and James Bond movies, “and much more.”

Pianist and composer Kevin Harris will performing this week at The Yard at the Tobin Community Center. Photo: courtesy of the artist

Kevin Harris Project
August 19, 6 p.m.
The Yard at the Tobin Community Center, Boston

Born and raised in Lexington, Kentucky, pianist and composer Kevin Harris has been a regular on the Boston jazz scene since coming to study at New England Conservatory in the ’90s. Since then he’s become a forceful presence as a player and bandleader. This free show — presented by Celebrity Series of Boston’s Neighborhood Arts program in conjunction with the Mission Hill Arts Festival — will feature Harris’s “Pulse,” described as “a chamber composition … that aims to stretch repertoire and foster connection among disparate audiences using improvised and written music with jazz and classical musicians performing alongside each other.” The players are Harris, bassist Max Ridley, violinist Gabriela Díaz, clarinetist Rane Moore, oboist Elizabeth England, and cellist David Russell. Reserved-seat tickets are also on sale for the otherwise free show.

Gabe Boyarin/Diego Martinez/Marie Carroll
August 22, 7:30 p.m.
Lilypad, Cambridge

A trio of improvisers from diverse backgrounds — and with experience in multiple forms including jazz and electronics: Gabe Boyarin on guitar, Marie Carroll on koto, and Diego Martinez on bass.

Tuba Skinny will be performing in Rockport. Photo: Sarrah Danziger

Tuba Skinny
August 30, 5 p.m. and 8 p.m.
Shalin Liu Performance Center, Rockport, MA

Rockport Music brings back the wonderful New Orleans trad-jazz-and-blues outfit for the second year. This is not your daddy’s Bourbon Street “Dixieland” (no “Muskrat Ramble,” no “St. James Infirmary,” no “Do You Know What It Means to Miss New Orleans?,” no “Saints”). Instead, the band digs into lesser-played beauties by King Oliver, Jabbo Smith, Clarence Williams, Bessie Smith, and others, along with some well-turned originals. The band (usually about nine pieces) is led by the wonderful cornettist Shaye Cohn (granddaughter of saxophonist Al and daughter of guitarist Joe), with distinctive post-Bessie blues moaning by singer Erika Lewis (doubling on bass drum). Washboard (“frattoir”) player Robin Rapuzzi plays his instrument like a true percussionist, with dexterous syncopations and cross rhythms.

— Jon Garelick

Author Events

Patti Hartigan at Harvard Book Store
August Wilson: A Life
August 15, 7 p.m.

“August Wilson wrote a series of ten plays celebrating African American life in the 20th century, one play for each decade. No other American playwright has completed such an ambitious oeuvre. Two of the plays became successful films, Fences, starring Denzel Washington and Viola Davis; and Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom, starring Viola Davis and Chadwick Boseman. Fences and The Piano Lesson won the Pulitzer Prize for Drama; Fences won the Tony Award for Best Play, and years after Wilson’s death in 2005, Jitney earned a Tony Award for Best Revival of a Play.

“Through his brilliant use of vernacular speech, Wilson developed unforgettable characters who epitomized the trials and triumphs of the African American experience. He said that he didn’t research his plays but wrote from ‘the blood’s memory,’ a sense of racial history that he believed African Americans shared. Author and theater critic Patti Hartigan traced his ancestry back to slavery, and his plays echo with uncanny similarities to the history of his ancestors. She interviewed Wilson many times before his death and traces his life from his childhood in Pittsburgh (where nine of the plays take place) to Broadway. She also interviewed scores of friends, theater colleagues, and family members, and conducted extensive research to tell the story of a writer who left an indelible imprint on American theater and opened the door for future playwrights of color.” Arts Fuse review

Santi Elijah Holley at Harvard Book Store
An Amerikan Family: The Shakurs and the Nation They Created
August 16, 7 p.m.

An Amerikan Family is a history of the fight for Black liberation in the United States, as experienced and shaped by the Shakur family. It is the story of hope and betrayal, addiction and murder, persecution and revolution. An Amerikan Family is not only family genealogy; it is the story of Black America’s long struggle for racial justice and the nation’s covert and repressive tactics to defeat that struggle. It is the story of a small but determined community, taking extreme, unconventional, and often perilous measures in the quest for freedom. In short, the story of the Shakurs is the story of America.”

Bookstore Romance Day – Porter Square Books
August 19, from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m.

“This year is the 5th annual Bookstore Romance Day, a day dedicated to romance writers, readers, and books. It’s the perfect occasion to pick up a Blind Date With a Book (a classic at our Boston location that will be available at both locations on 8/19)! Get your 2023 love life prophecy (complete with a book rec, of course)! Fall in love!

Last but not least, grab your crochet needles and join us at PSB’s Cambridge location at 7 p.m. … Bookseller May will be leading a craft circle in which you can learn how to make your very own heart envelope book sleeve. Take home a printout of the written pattern to complete later, and when you’ve finished, share your project on social media and be sure to tag us (@porter_square_books on Instagram) to win an advanced reader copy of a romance book!”

Cara Fitzpatrick at Harvard Book Store
The Death of Public School: How Conservatives Won the War Over Education in America
August 21, 7 p.m.

“America has relied on public schools for 150 years, but the system is increasingly under attack. With declining enrollment and diminished trust in public education, policies that steer tax dollars into private schools have grown rapidly. To understand how we got here, The Death of Public School argues, we must look back at the turbulent history of school choice.

“Cara Fitzpatrick uncovers the long journey of school choice, a story full of fascinating people and strange political alliances. She shows how school choice evolved from a segregationist tool in the South in the 1950s, to a policy embraced by advocates for educational equity in the North, to a conservative strategy for securing government funds for private schools in the twenty-first century. As a result, education is poised to become a private commodity rather than a universal good.”

Jennifer Lunden with Catherine Guthrie – brookline booksmith
American Breakdown
August 25, 7 p.m.

“When Jennifer Lunden became chronically ill after moving from Canada to Maine, her case was a medical mystery. Just 21, unable to hold a book or stand for a shower, she lost her job and consigned herself to her bed. The doctor she went to for help told her she was “just depressed.”

After suffering from this enigmatic illness for five years, she discovered an unlikely source of hope and healing: a biography of Alice James, the bright, witty, and often bedridden sibling of brothers Henry James, the novelist, and William James, the father of psychology. Alice suffered from a life-shattering illness known as neurasthenia, now often dismissed as a “fashionable illness.”

“In this meticulously researched and illuminating debut, Lunden interweaves her own experience with Alice’s, exploring the history of medicine and the effects of the industrial revolution and late-stage capitalism to tell a riveting story of how we are a nation struggling—and failing—to be healthy.”

Australian novelist Shelley Parker-Chan will read from her latest novel He Who Drowned the World. Photo: Liminal magazine

Shelley Parker-Chan – brookline booksmith
He Who Drowned the World
August 29, 6 p.m.

“The sequel and series conclusion to Parker-Chan’s She Who Became the Sun, the accomplished, poetic debut of war and destiny, sweeping across an epic alternate China. Mulan meets The Song of Achilles. How much would you give to win the world? Zhu Yuanzhang, the Radiant King, is riding high after the victory that tore southern China from its Mongol masters. Now she burns with a new desire: to seize the throne and crown herself emperor.

“But Zhu isn’t the only one with imperial ambitions. Her neighbor in the south, the courtesan Madam Zhang, wants the throne for her husband—and she’s strong enough to wipe Zhu off the map. To stay in the game, Zhu will have to gamble everything on a risky alliance with an old enemy: the talented but unstable eunuch general Ouyang, who has already sacrificed everything for a chance at revenge on his father’s killer, the Great Khan.”

— Matt Hanson

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